Misconceptions abound when it comes to divorce in the United States. Perhaps no area is more fraught with misconceptions than child custody. There is a trio of pervasive, persistent myths associated with child custody in a divorce case:
- Law favors mothers
- Custodial parent can stop parenting time (visitation) if child support is not current
- Parents’ rights rule when custody decisions are made
Law Favors Mothers
Time and again, the mantra is repeated that child custody law favors mothers. Mothers repeat this myth, believing that they automatically have a leg up in regard to child custody matters. Fathers gripe because they conclude that they enter a child custody contest on unequal footing with mothers.
The fact is that at this juncture in the 21st century, child custody laws across the United States are not designed to favor mothers. Rather, child custody laws are designed to provide an equal opportunity to both parents to present their positions in regard to child custody.
Custodial Parent can Stop Parenting Time (Visitation) if Child Support is not Current
Another persistent myth about child custody is that a custodial parent has the ability to put a stop to visitation on his or her own initiative if the noncustodial parent falls behind in child support. In fact, the law and the courts take a dim view to this type of self-help conduct in a divorce or post-divorce setting.
The reality is that a custodial parent cannot legally halt parenting time of his or her own volition and without court authorization, if the other parent has fallen behind in making child support payments. If a noncustodial parent is failing to appropriately make child support payments, parenting time still continues on uninterrupted unless a judge orders otherwise.
Parents’ Rights Rule when Custody Decisions are Made
The final prevalent myth that must be noted is that parents’ rights rule when custody decisions are made. This is patently false.
While it is true that the rights of parents do have a role to play in custody decisions, they do not govern. Rather, child custody determinations in all U.S. jurisdictions are governed by what is in the best interests of a child. In other words, the health and wellbeing of a child is the overarching consideration when a court makes a decision regarding child custody as well as parenting time.
The bottom line is that you must be armed with accurate information about the law and court practice when you find yourself involved in a divorce case. This includes issues surrounding child custody. The surest way to have an accurate understanding of applicable divorce and custody law is to retain the services of an experienced, thoughtful divorce attorney.